From our Friends at Black Bear Academy

col·lab·o·ra-tion \kə-ˌla-bə-ˈrā-shən\ noun: the action of working with someone to produce or create something.

This five syllable word is a very important word in the lives of families working with a team of professionals, managing the needs of children with developmental or learning delays. During May, which the American Speech and Hearing Association designates as Better Speech and Hearing Month, one of ASHA’s primary goals was to reiterate the importance of cross discipline collaboration (i.e. ST, OT, PT, teachers, parents) and its impact on child outcomes.

Last month, Deborah Dixon, director of school services, with ASHA was interviewed for a blog titled, “Voices from the Field.” In the article, Deborah stated, “True collaboration requires a lot of trust, but once you build that trust you understand that no one person can be responsible for a child’s progress.” Although this is a primary reason professionals choose an early learning setting, effective collaboration among team members is often challenging to achieve. The main reason for this is the perception that there isn’t enough TIME! Uninterrupted, focused, consecutive, frequent time sometimes feels like an unattainable gift while working with children, in a learning environment!

At Black Bear Academy, we have the ability to collaborate about each enrolled child on a regular basis. We have Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, early childhood and academic teachers working closely together in the same environment with the same children. “I love the potential that is associated with working with kids…its inspiring to think of how much we can actively assist in supporting changes,” said Katie Oglesbee, a lead SLP at Black Bear Academy. Since a primary role of an early interventionist, such as an SLP is to support the growth of foundational skills that support school readiness, it is “imperative” that the people working with each child collaborate. She added, “Consistency is (also) imperative in support of optimal outcomes.” Jenny Macksood, a Junior Kindergarten teacher at Black Bear Academy, added, “Collaboration is so important so that I am able to help incorporate a child’s goals in the educational setting.” Both Katie and Jenny agree that finding the “time” can still be a challenge, but Jenny added, “Building in time into schedules, ahead of time,” makes it possible.

Collaboration among team members and disciplines allows a strong relationship to form around a child so that all of his/her needs are being addressed, which is so important at a young age. Each expert has a different perspective based on their personal education, trainings and experiences that they that can valuable to the whole team. In addition different disciplines use varying measurement tools to gain information about the whole child so that intervention plans can be developed with a broader understanding of a child’s strengths and lagging skills. By working together, providers can use the information gained through collaboration about a child’s skill set across domains to help guide their intervention plans and treatment approaches. Collaboration is crucial to optimize progress towards educational and clinical goals!

So how do we find the time? We have to make the time! Some solutions Deborah Dixon discussed in the interview include the importance of educating the team about each person’s role and broadening their understanding for what each other does and how each member can impact outcomes for the same child. Another solution, which is primary to the success and effectiveness of a collaborative team is ‘buy in!’ All members of the team, the teachers, the parents, and the therapists, have to believe that together, they can accomplish more with the child, than on their own. Once each member of a team is educated about each other’s roles and all are on board, then schedule meetings! Meetings can be face to face, on the phone and these days, online. Be respectful of each other’s time, make agendas and remember that the family is part of the team! Advocate for the importance of collaboration!

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” ~Helen Keller

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